Inspirational fundraiser who fought life-threatening illness is in line for Sunderland Echo award

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Amazing Andrew Robertson has fought back from a rare life-threatening illness to become an astonishing fundraiser.

Andrew, 45, has a condition which is so unusual that only one in a million people is diagnosed with it.

Andrew first began suffering from bizarre symptoms including a rash around his eyes, pain behind his eyeballs, aching bones and “horrendous” toothache.

At times, he thought he had flu or rheumatic pains.

He revealed to the Echo how he was told he may have to have all his teeth out, and was later put in isolation amid fears he might have tuberculosis.

His fight for life began in 2008 and he admitted it led him to suffer severe depression.

I look at life totally differently now. I am not so materialistic. I just think it does not matter. I don’t panic as much and I am more concerned about my health

Andrew Robertson

The health and safety manager for a Ferryhill sheet metal firm, who is married to Alyson, 40, said: “I was backwards and forwards to hospital.”

At times, it was so bad, said Andrew, “I couldn’t lift myself out of the bath.

“I’ve always been passionate about sport and back in 2008 running was my sport. I was training for the Great North Run.

“It all started with a rash around the eyes.

“Several trips to the hospital got rid of the rash then the toothache started; this was nothing like toothache I’ve known in the past, as the pain spread to my eye.

“Then the joint pain started. I thought this was down to the amount of training I was doing. Attached to this was weight loss but the worry was the shortness of breath then the coughing-up of blood. I was admitted to hospital and isolated because they didn’t have a clue what I had.”

But it was while he was in hospital that a junior doctor recognised the potential signs of Wegener’s Granulomatosis.

“It’s a one-in-a-million disorder that causes inflammation of the blood vessels.

The doctor was right, and that’s when Andrew began treatment which included months of chemotherapy. Thankfully, his condition was found relatively early. In other extreme cases, it can lead to kidney failure and death.

In Andrew’s case, Wegener’s Granulomatosis has left him with 15 per cent lung damage.

Yet despite his problems, thankful Andrew has fought back and even though he is still on chemotherapy, he is taking part in triathlons to try and help others going through the same ordeal.

And seven years on from first suffering symptoms, he has amassed more than £11,000 for the fight to find out more about Wegener’s Granulomatosis.

“I look at life totally differently now,” he said.

“I am not so materialistic. I just think it does not matter. I don’t panic as much and I am more concerned about my health.”

There have been setbacks along the way, including experts finding a thrombosis on his jugular vein.

More chemotherapy followed but Andrew’s determination to fundraise never wavered. He even competed in the Haven Point Triathlon at South Shields just after coming out of hospital.

His remarkable story has earned him a nomination for a Best of Wearside award – from his proud mum Margaret Robertson who said: “He has had very little time off work, is so determined and a true inspiration to all who suffer from this life threatening rare illness.”

Andrew, from Great Lumley, joins an impressive list of entries for the awards but we want more.

This year, the competition is being held in association with Vantec Europe Ltd.

To help us in our quest, we have also been backed by some fantastic category sponsors.

They are Calsonic, Gentoo, Martinos, TWR and UK Asbestos and we thank them all for their fantastic backing.

From now until the deadline of Monday, November 2, we will be looking for the very best in our communities.

To nominate your own personal favourite, fill in the nomination form on this page or visit